The Woodside course was the first of two 18-hole layouts to be built here at Sempachersee. It opened in the mid 1990s and served the members for over a decade before the addition of the 18-hole Lakeside course transformed Sempachersee into the largest golf complex in the country.
The 14th century Battle of Sempach between the knights of Leopold III, Duke of Austria, and the army of the Old Swiss Confederacy took place on a site very close to Sempachersee. Don't expect a slaughtering on the Woodside course however as it could never be described as a hostile track.
In fact, fairways are generally forgiving – though they will tighten up over time when trees mature – and water hazards are sensibly positioned so visitors should be able to enjoy a relaxing game of golf in the heart of the Swiss countryside.
The recent course expansion project also included the construction of one of the most sleek and stylish clubhouses that you will ever come across. Set on a ridge that overlooks the fairways below, its appearance has been described as one that “oscillates between the rural warmth of a timber barn and the clear lines of a Masserati sports car”.
This course is often presented as the longest course in Switzerland from the championship tees with a total length of 6637 meters. Even from the yellow tees it is a respectable 6031 meters, and the red tees will have the ladies log 5302 meters, so length is definitely a factor here.
The environment is definitely another factor, and a reason for liking this course. It is located on a sort of plateau at the top of a hill which overlooks a wide valley between Lake Sempach and Lucerne, and offers very attractive views of the Pilatus and Napf mountain peaks in the distance (but the Lakeside course, the other 18-hole course of the complex, offers even better views, unobstructed by trees in many places). The general layout outside the course itself is quite spread out, with the main visitor parking lot set a good 250 meters away from the clubhouse, which is itself separated by at least 50 meters from the main restaurant. The latter offers a magnificent view of Lake Sempach and the Alps beyond as it is located at the very edge of the hill, directly over the chipping and putting areas and the mile-long hillside leading to the lake.
The course itself is a parkland type, not quite flat but very walkable. To note: the 9th green is nowhere next to the clubhouse, but there is a half-way house there. This is definitely a course that long hitters will enjoy, as the fairways are often wide but most holes are on the long side. The exception is the 11th, a par-four (354 meters from the back tees, but still 414 from the championship tees) with a lake along the left side of the fairway, and a corner of woods on the right side narrowing the access to the fairway which requires a carry of some 200 meters from the championship tees and 165 meters from the back tees to reach. Water hazards are also a prominent feature here, as they come into play on eleven of the eighteen holes. The general design of the course is not particularly original, but some holes are noteworthy for various reasons: the 3rd, the first par-three, is a dangerously long hole (177 meters from the whites) as the green is defended by bunkers on the front and right and a lake on the left; the 4th is a very long par-five, with 528 meters from the men’s tees (back or forward), as from the ladies’ (483 meters from the blues and still 466 from the reds), which might make it a very difficult par. It is in fact rated as the most difficult hole on the course. The 7th is another testing par-five: 571 meters from the championship tees, and a “mere” 511 meters for the back tees, it is guarded by two lakes eager to swallow the drive and second shots; the green is elevated from the second lake, narrow and quite long.
The 10th is more of an accuracy test: this dogleg left par-four includes a fairly narrow fairway turning around a huge bunker toward a long, narrow green with a steep slope on the right threatening to push any ball not catching the green’s surface into another lake. The 15th is rated as the second hardest hole, and it is easy to understand why: not only is it quite long (410 meters from the back tees), but this dogleg par-four turns around a lake and the second shot, even if long and well placed on the fairway, is hindered from reaching the green by a copse located in the middle of the fairway some 60 meters before the green so that any attempt to reach in regulation must be a long iron or rescue high enough to clear the trees. The short 16th is probably the prettiest hole on the course, but also the hardest of the par-threes with a lake ready to catch any short shot aimed at the wide but narrow green. Finally the 17th hole is the hole with the most elevation change on the course with a long downhill section, which only the long hitters will be able to take advantage of. A very good drive is necessary to have a chance to reach the green in two, as this par-four spans 457 meters from the back tees, and the green looks most dangerous: a stream crosses the fairway in front of it and feeds a lake whose reeds tend to hide the big front greenside bunker which squeezes the left half of the green while another bunker sits in the back of it. The green is less than ten meters wide there, while the right half is a bit more welcoming. The 18th hole is memorable but mostly because of the view it allows from the green onto the valley of Lake Sempach.
All in all, this course will demand a lot of strategy thinking for the average golfer because some greens will simply not be reachable in regulation, and other holes will require good, long shots to let the player have a par chance. It might be a bit discouraging in the end. For the long hitter though, it will probably feel like an interesting challenge. It was obviously designed to be a serious championship level tournament venue, but how many golfers will test the black tees in the course of a season?